Finding Rest in the City

Lessons from the Pandemic

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since our shelter-in-place order began in Denver. So much has happened in these 364 days. It started with COVID-19. It quickly affected how everyone lived, worked, and played. We cancelled sports. We sent kids home from school. We brought our work home. We shuttered businesses. Just when we started to come out of our homes again, our country (and the world) erupted after George Floyd was killed for allegedly paying with a counterfeit 20 dollar bill. Another life was lost because we cannot fully accept and appreciate the beautiful variations in our skin that God gave us. From there, it seemed as if each area of the country dealt with their own natural disaster. Whether it was floods, wildfires, or hurricanes, we have been continually pushed to remember that we are not in control. Next, the turmoil of the 2020 Election began to unfold. Families, communities, and cities became places of division instead of any semblance of unity. To say it’s been a hard year is an understatement.

While there has been so much pain, struggle, and devastation, this year does not have to be a total loss. These are some of the lessons I believe this last year has given us the opportunity to learn:

Things to Question

With all the changes and disruptions to our daily life we’ve endured this last year, the pandemic has give the chance to question some things we do and why we do them:

1. How we work and learn.

As the pandemic began to shut down our country and the world, we were met with a multitude of changes all at once. One of the most challenging changes for families was schools going remote, while parents needed to work from home. Since we already homeschooled prior to the pandemic, this wasn’t as disruptive to our daily lives as it was for many other families. But homeschooling has never meant that we’re home all the time. As the pandemic went on, we greatly missed our regular trips to the library, local museums, and other extra-curriculars and groups. But while this was oh. so. very. hard, it gave us the opportunity to assess what was necessary for our children’s education and what was not.

For some, it afforded the chance to see into their kids’ days in a way they were unable to before. It allowed parents to see more of the content that is being taught in schools and decide if it’s what they want for their kids. It allowed us to see the pace at which kids are being thrust through their education today and if it is developmentally appropriate or not. It showed us how crucial healthy relationships are for our kids with their peers, teachers, and the community at-large. It also highlighted how remote learning cannot replace an in-person education. The feeling of “we’re in this together” is lost over the screens.

Our work was also affected by the pandemic. While some lost their jobs and businesses, others had to learn to adapt to a new work environment and priorities. For some, it gave the opportunity to consider where they worked and where they lived. With so much work going remote, many took the opportunity to move to a home that better met their needs or a city they preferred. While some people realized they could be just as effective with less hours in the office, others relished the opportunity to head back to a collaborative workplace.

2. What we focus on.

I’ll never forget our last date night before the country shut down. I was 38 weeks pregnant with our fourth, and we were out at our favorite date night place. This normally bustling restaurant had an eerie silence. We sat and talked about the strangeness, as the ESPN ticker on the tv over the bar was scrolling that the NHL had just cancelled its season. It felt surreal.

As more sports were cancelled or postponed (including the Summer Olympics), we became more disappointed and devastated. As an athlete at heart, I can’t imagine what my life would be like without sports. While I prefer to be a participant more than a spectator, both are able to take a healthy or unhealthy place in our schedules and our hearts. As we took a step back, this fine line began to become more clear.

On par with sports, is our entertainment and ability to travel. As air travel came to a screeching halt and as movie theaters, restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, and other venues shuttered, we began to see how accustomed we were to being entertained and moving about as we please. Again, these are not bad things in and of themselves.

The pause allowed us the space to ask, “what position in our life have we placed these things?” When we look at youth sports and witness the tyrannical parent yelling at the referee, something has gone wrong. When we place the importance of our ability to travel for fun over taking the time to be a good neighbor, something has gone wrong. When we place any of these things over the place only God should be, we have gone wrong. This pause has given us the chance to reflect, repent, and revise.

3. What we want our impact to be.

As our lives came to a crawl, we had the chance to “miss” everything that had previously taken up space on our calendars. Was everything we were doing helping us to become the people we want to be? Did we enjoy what we were doing or did we do it to maintain some type of appearance? Were we living for ourselves or for something greater? The Great Pause has given us the chance to begin or continue thinking about what we want our legacy to be.

Things to Leave Behind

Many of us found that our lives were way too full before the pandemic. The stillness gave us a chance to breathe again (or maybe even for the first time). As things begin to open up, we will have to be intentional with what we leave behind in order to maintain the breathing room that has been created. These are a few things I’m personally looking forward to leaving behind:

1. Unhealthy relationships & thoughts.

There’s no shortage of research on the importance of having healthy relationships in our lives. The stress of the pandemic and the unhurried time to do some soul-searching, may have led to challenges in this area. While giving ourselves and others grace is so important, so is having the courage to have crucial conversations with the people we know and love when something needs to be addressed. While not all relationships may survive these difficult times, we always have the option to decide what we will allow in order to maintain our own mental and emotional health.

Unhealthy thoughts are another thing that may have been holding us back. Why do I pick on our thoughts out of everything? Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” We’re told to think about great things, but why?

Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

Frank Jackson

I’d say our destiny is worth considering. Kick those crappy thoughts to the curb with COVID-19 when it makes its way out.

2. The grip of social media and the news on our lives.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with social media over the years that spilled into the pandemic. But since the election, I’ve found myself becoming more neutral towards it. It’s not only that people have become somewhat less confrontational, I’ve also made the intentional decision to hop off the crazy train of social media. I just don’t like drama and I’m going to protect myself from getting addicted to it. Because drama can be addictive and social media is set up to pull us into it. But, it’s not an all-or-nothing issue for me. It means that I’ve assessed social media’s purpose and place in my life and am using it accordingly. Am I perfect at it? Definitely not. There are moments when I find myself getting caught up in current happenings (although not nearly as bad as the doomsday scrolling, like at the beginning of the pandemic), but when I do, I allow myself the opportunity to disconnect and reset.

The same goes for the news. It is so. dang. hard. to find positive news these days. That, and it’s also hard to find unbiased news. When I hear flagrant news, I pause to:

  1.  Consider the source.
  2. Find more facts if necessary. This includes asking calm, rational people with different perspectives what they know about the situation.
  3. Stop reading the comments if I know all they’re going to do is evoke anger.

Truly, what good are we to society if we are angry about something all. the. time? There are so many (big T and little t) traumas out there that deserve to be validated and healed, but each of us cannot tend to every single one of them. We have to choose our battles. We have not been placed on this Earth to fight every one of them, and we do not have to buy what the media is selling that we have to stand up for everything. If we try to, we will do a poor job of truly supporting anything.

3. Masks (and what they prevent and represent).

It may sound petty that I list masks as something to leave behind, as we move forward from the pandemic, but hear me out. While I’m grateful for what these pieces of cloth may have protected us from, they are also inconvenient and uncomfortable to many of us. But more importantly, they also prevent us from clearly and fully communicating with others. Being someone in the hard-of-hearing community (I was the recipient of my first pair of hearing aids at the ripe age of 36), masks also make conversations incredibly difficult. Some of us rely on looking at people’s lips to piece together sentences when the words don’t form clearly in our ears. Yet, I kept hearing from normal-hearing people how masks increased the difficulty of their conversations, too. Not only are lips important to see, but so are facial expressions. Our eyes alone do not convey all of our body language. I look forward to the simple things an unmasked face brings, like being able to smile at someone walking down the street again.

The other kind of mask that will be great to leave behind, is the mask of perfection. As we hunkered down at home and others got a glimpse into our lives via Zoom, we started to see each other in a more real way. That normally polished business man (aka my husband)? He has four kids at home and the one with the poopy diaper is hell-bent on Zoom-bombing every meeting by ‘flying’ through the air on his therapy swing. Our online meetings have collided with our messy lives. We expanded our view of other people to more than just their title at work. We began seeing them as mothers, fathers, siblings, roommates, girlfriends, boyfriends, sons, and daughters that have other important roles and goals in life. Being at home all the time prevented us from maintaining our perfectly presented selves. And that’s okay — it reminded us that we’re all human and allowed us to more authentically connect.

On these calls, we also started asking each other how we’re really doing — and, we started offering real answers. It was hard and messy. But we found it was okay to admit we weren’t okay. It was actually a relief to find out that we weren’t alone in our struggles. We no longer had to keep juggling all the plates with fear that someone would see us drop one — they had probably dropped one, too. We began finding rest in these connections. I hope we continue to let the masks drop.

Things to Carry Forward

With all the negative we want to leave behind, there is so much good to carry forward. The pandemic has shown us how important our loved ones, our health, and our homes are to us. Yet, this year has shown us that any of those can be taken from us at any moment. If we want solid footing to stand on, here are three things that we can carry forward that can never be taken from us:

1. Faith

No matter how bad things get, our faith in God cannot be taken from us. It is through our struggles that our faith is strengthened!

2. Hope

When we place our faith in the Lord, our hope is not just wishful thinking. Our hope is expectant. It rests in the confident affirmation that God is faithful and will complete what He has begun in us and in creation!

3. Love

The absolute greatest thing we can carry forward from the pandemic is the love we have for God, ourselves, and each other! Without love, we are nothing. Love is what gets us through the worst. Love is why Jesus suffered for us. Love is what changes our hearts. Love is what transforms our communities and ultimately our world. If you can only carry one thing with you out of the pandemic, choose love.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I Corinthians 13:13
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Hi, I'm Jen!

Nice to meet you!

I’m a homeschooling mom of four and recovering perfectionist on a journey to live a more restful life.

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